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Apply Now: Travel Agent Federal Support Program Details Released

Initial details for the Travel Agent Federal Support program announced on December 1 have been released today via the Services Australia Business Hub. But timings for payments still remain unclear.

Initial details for the Travel Agent Federal Support program announced on December 1 have been released today via the Services Australia Business Hub. But timings for payments still remain unclear.

The Australian Federal Government had announced on December 1 that it would support the travel industry with $128m in funding, under a new rescue package allowing travel agents to apply from $1500 to $100k in one-off support payments.

Trade and Tourism Minister Simon Birmingham unveiled the $128m scheme for what the Federal Government estimated to be 3000 to 4000 travel agents with annual turnovers/sales of between $50,000 and $20 million.

Officially, the scheme is called the ‘COVID-19 Consumer Travel Support Program’ with the aim to provide a ‘one-off grant to help travel agents and tour arrangement service providers stay viable. This will help them continue to trade and to meet their legal obligations to keep paying refunds and credits to Australian consumers who are unable to travel because of COVID-19.’

From today, eligible travel agents and businesses can now lodge their applications for the one-off grant support via the Services Australia Business Hub.

To be eligible, businesses must:

  • be a travel agent or tour arrangement service provider;
  • be actively incorporated or registered in Australia as at 30 November 2020 with AFTA or other peak bodies including CATO and ATEC;
  • have a business turnover of between $50,000 and $20 million for the 2019 calendar year;
  • have been eligible for a JobKeeper fortnight in October (either 28 September 2020 – 11 October 2020 or 12 October – 25 October).

If your business had an annual GST turnover of $75,000 or more in the 2019 calendar year it must:

  • be registered for GST
  • have lodged all required Business Activity Statements (BAS) in that year.

If you’re not registered for GST, you must make a declaration in your claim that your business turnover was between $50,000 and $75,000 in the 2019 calendar year.

Grants range from $1,500 to $100,000 per entity and applications will be taken from 14 December until 13 March 2021 or until the program funds run out.

According to the scheme, as examples, an eligible business with an annual turnover of between:

  • $100,000 and $199,999 will get $4,000.
  • $200,000 and $299,999 will get $6,500.
  • $500,000 and $599,999 will get $14,000.

The grants are also taxable which means agents must include it in their business’ 20-21 income tax return.

No timelines have been given yet on the Services Australia Business Hub on how long the process will take before payments are made.

In a media release, The Australian Federation of Travel Agents (AFTA) said that the Federal Government’s tailored $128m support package for travel agents and tour operators “comes at a critical time, especially given the ongoing delays to full resumption of international travel.”

“Australia’s travel agents and tour operators who have been so devastated by COVID are incredibly grateful for this support and for the Government’s responsiveness from Prime Minister Scott Morrison and Tourism Minister Simon Birmingham down in making this grant possible.”

Darren Rudd, AFTA CEO

Parallel to AFTA’s work on the grants support, given the severity of the COVID impact on Australia’s 4000 travel agents and the 40,000 employed in the sector, AFTA say they are continuing to press the case for additional support including JobKeeper 3.0 for the travel industry. This work will form the basis of AFTA’s pre-Budget submission to be lodged January.

“Given the numerous constructive, collaborative conversations had to date with Government, AFTA hopes this measure is the first of a number of support mechanisms including the tailored evolution of JobKeeper for our sector. As the Prime Minister himself has acknowledged in Question Time recently, travel agents will need ongoing support for some time.” Said AFTA CEO Darren Rudd.

“AFTA looks forward to continuing to work closely with Government and Government agencies to ensure the implementation detail is right and that those travel agencies, tour operators and tour wholesalers who are unable to access funding through corporate debt raising receive the ongoing support they need to stay in business and continue to support their employees, clients and customers.” Said Mr Rudd.

However, the news has been met by some agents with confusion and frustration that the eligibility process has not been made clearer with many fearing they will still receive minimal amounts at best.

One agent closed Facebook group with 2,000 members who had engaged its members to actively lobby their local members of Parliament said: “We are devastated and beyond frustrated with the outcome of the Federal Support Package.”

Find out more at the Services Australia Business Hub.